Category Archives: montlucon

Monday 20th June 2022 – HERE WE ALL ARE …

… not exactly sitting in a rainbow, and not exactly sitting in a Première Classe Hotel in Tours. STRAWBERRY MOOSE and I are actually sitting in Rosemary’s spare bedroom here in the Auvergne.

Last night was another turbulent night with tons of stuff on the dictaphone. There was something going on about Canada and the World Cup. They had qualified for another final and a World Cup final for another sport the previous day. When they qualified for the World Cup people accused them of a little indifference because they didn’t celebrate as much. There was a dispute about one of their goals that should have been given offside. There was also a scandal that they had a camera installed in the changing rooms for one of the matches. People were questioning what was going on about that as well.

There was something happening to do with a guy to pick up an arctic lorry and trailer that had broken down somewhere. He had one of these dock shunter things for pulling it. I thought that that would make a really interesting article for a newspaper, to go with him and write about his recoveries. I went with my father and the first part went OK but waiting for him to come back the second time, we were waiting there hours, not for him but for another person who was coming with us rather. We were waiting hours and in the end we decided that we’d go without this other guy wo I had to go and rescue my cat Tuppence to bring with me. Trying to catch her was another thing, but in the end I managed it but she wouldn’t let me put the antiseptic on her paws. In the meantime she’d been catching fish out of the pond and eating it. We were talking to the neighbours about how good it was to actually have a cat that feeds itself without any help from us.

There was a rich comedian telling us the story of the time that he was at a hotel somewhere doing an entertainment and there were these three girls. He’d managed to get together with the older one but had been told in no uncertain terms what would happen if he started to get together with the two younger ones. He made an attempt on the middle one, put his arm around her etc but she was very uncooperative and wasn’t interested at all. He was telling us how difficult it was to try to be friendly and put your arm around a girl who was not at all interested in any of that. In the end I didn’t want to hear any more about his stories so I went off to have a shower. The shower in my room was pretty miserable and wasn’t up to much so I prepared my stuff ready to go into my friend’s room. On the way there I told them that I was going in for a shower and if they wanted the bathroom for anything they had better hurry up. They said that they thought that they had heard me use the shower so I explained how awful it was. I’d had it running but it hadn’t done anything very much so they asked me to wait for a minute while they organised themselves in their room.

Anyway I was awake early and up and about as soon as the alarm went off.

After a good shower I packed everything and was actually back on the road again by 08:55.

Caliburn required me to stop down the road at LeClerc to fuel up and I found myself right by the hotel that I had tried to find last night – just a cockstride away from where I’d slept.

The drive – as far as Chateauroux anyway – was quite comfortable except that I was flashed by a speed camera that I hadn’t noticed.

But once I hit Chateauroux the sun came out and it burnt me out of the cab. That was hot.

At LeClerc at Montlucon I went in for some groceries and I bumped into two people whom I knew, who high-tailed it out of there the moment they saw me coming. Old habits die hard in Montlucon.

On the way out I found a sheltered shady layby and stopped there to make a butty And then pushed on to see my partner in crime.

It’s been two years since we last saw each other and despite our lengthy telephone conversations we had a lot of catching up to do. I also met her Ukrainian refugee family who seem like really nice people.

They have a young girl, barely a teenager, who is very fond of animals and was showing me photos that she had taken of local animals here. So in exchange I showed her my photos of polar bears, walruses and whales from the Arctic.

She’s ever so cute and it is totally beyond my understanding why anyone would want to be so evil to kids like this.

She has a cat too and insisted on giving it to me to let me cuddle it, even if it wasn’t that keen.

Tomorrow she’s going to have the shock of her life. I’m going to introduce her to STRAWBERRY MOOSE.

But not right now. I’m off to bed. I’ve had a long, tough day, I need my sleep and it’s already late.

Monday 20th March 2017 – NOW I KNOW …

… why I spent all that money two years ago buying that new bed and expensive mattress and all of that nice bedding. For I was out like a light last night and had one of the most comfortable sleeps that I have had in years. So much so that in fact I was rather reluctant to leave it.

Even more so when I saw what the weather was doing outside. Cold wet and grey, just like I was feeling in fact, so no change there.

But anyway, I managed a decent breakfast – muesli with soya milk, an apple puree thing and grapefruit juice all washed down with coffee of course. And then gathering my wits as well as a few things here and there, Caliburn, Strawberry Moose and I hit the streets.

We ended up at Evaux-les-Bains where I took Caliburn to the menders. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that back in October in Brussels, Caliburn was the victim of a Belgian driver who didn’t know where the brakes were on his car. Anyway, today he goes to be mended.

And not only that, there’s some rust creeping through that’s making him look a little untidy, and so he’s having that attended to. He’ll be 10 in a couple of weeks time and, unfortunately, he’s starting to show his age. But then, aren’t we all?

They had a little Skoda Fabia for me to borrow while he’s being fixed (that’s why I’m having his body done right now – while I have free access to a hire car). It’s not a bad little car but it’s very plasticky and I can’t see anyone having 10 years out of one of these. But it’s free for five days so good luck to me.

Once I was properly organised I went round to Ingrid’s at Biollet. Ingrid was the only one of my Auvergnat friends who came to see me while I was really ill (of course, never forgetting Jean-Marc who drove all the way from Macon to see me, for which I will always be grateful) and it’s only right that I go to thank her. Generally-speaking, my Auvergnat friends turned out to be one big disappointment. When the going got tough, they certainly got going – but in the opposite direction.

And after all that I’ve done for them too.

Ingrid and I had coffee and a good chat which was very nice, and then I had to go to Montlucon to change my Livebox – that seems to be the reason why I’m not connecting to the internet. And Ingrid offered to come too for the ride and the company which was nice.

Changing the Livebox was a matter of minutes and then it was lunchtime. We repaired to a cafe across the street which fixed us a couple of salads and the dressing was superb.

By now, the sun was out and it was a glorious day – far too nice to go back home, and so I proposed a trip to Clermont Ferrand. Something that I needed to do there and now seemed like as good a time as any. We had an exciting time trying to find the Prefecture, and an even more exciting time trying to find the car afterwards. But it was only 5 minutes at the Prefecture and we spent the remainder of the two hours sitting in the sunshine at a cafe on the Place de Jaude. And very nice it was too.

I stopped for a coffee back at Ingrid’s and then headed for home. The Skoda is a nice little car but it’s not for me – I’ll tell you that for nothing. And back here I crashed out. It had been a long tiring day and I’m not as young as I was.

And the new Livebox?

That’s not perishing working either!

Saturday 18th March 2017 – LAST NIGHT …

… was something of a restless night for me. For a start, I wasn’t hungry and so I didn’t have anything to eat. And then I couldn’t go to sleep for ages either. By 06:00 I was wide awake and working on the laptop.

Nevertheless, I did manage to go on my travels during the night. I’d been to some kind of city where the railway lines had been moved out of the centre to the edge of the place, and the interior where the rails and the stations had formerly been was now all overgrown and being used by the locals as a kind of park. There were some arches over where the railway lines had been – brick arches of the kind that might have been built by the Romans and in very poor repair. I kept trying to take a few photos of them but people kept on getting in the way and it was just so difficult to have a clear shot.

Anyway, I had breakfast, in company with plenty of other people and a pile of dogs – it seems as if there was some kind of Canine Convention going on here just now. And then, as usual, I had things to do on the laptop.

Having survived the initial attempt to turf me out of my room, I decided not to push my luck and by 10:00 I was on my way. First stop was the LeClerc supermarket for bread and a few other bits and pieces to set me up for the next few days. I had a chat with Ingrid on the telephone too and we arranged to meet up on Monday for a chat and so on.

And then – I’ve put this off for so long but I can’t keep on doing it. I headed for home. It’s been a long time since I’ve been down these roads. For the last 18 months or so I’ve been something of a disciple of Wilfred Grenfell, who sais that “when two paths are open, always take the more venturesome”. But I have to go home sometime.

When I finally arrived, I could see that it was clear that the gales and tempests that have battered the centre of France have given here a pretty good battering too. But there’s no real damage or anything and, to be honest, it was good to be back. The good news is that the rodent-proofing that I carried out here in December seems to have worked and there’s no obvious signs of any damage. It was 16.1°C in here too so that was good – saved me having to light a fire.

But the bad news is that the storm has done something to the internet connection and that is down. It looks as if I’ll be taking Ingrid to Montlucon on Monday to swap my Livebox over for a new one. Anyway, I had a nice sit-down and relax for the afternoon, and kicked my mug of coffee all over the floor breaking off the handle of the mug, as well as washing the floor..

One of my plans for tonight was to go down to Pionsat to watch the football. But to my astonishment, not only is Pionsat running just one team this season (instead of the two last season and even three a couple of seasons ago), the team has declared a general forfeit and abandoned all of its matches. I don’t know what to make of this. It’s all rather astonishing as far as I’m concerned.

So anyway, I made myself something quick out of a tin to eat and then settled down on the sofa tonight, trying to sleep amid the sound of the animals scratching away in the roof.

As Golden Earring once famously sang, “You know it’s good to be back home” but I have been realising day by day while I’ve been away that with my declining health (because I can see it declining every day) my long-term future lies away from here.

Friday 9th December 2016 – I HAD MY …

… early night, and I was quickly away with the fairies too. But I was soon awakened by some kid of beastie scratching away in the roof.I’d forgotten all about them, you know, and how they used to scratch away all the blasted time. I did recall how, on my first night asleep in the bedroom downstairs, how deep a sleep I had without being disturbed at all.

But anyway, this scratching went on for quite a while and I couldn’t get off to sleep while all of this was going on. It was so annoying. But anyway, I did finally go off to sleep and was wide awake again before the alarms went off.

plasterboard corner attic les guis virlet puy de dome franceAfter breakfast and a little relax, I made a start. The corner in the attic that had been left open for access to the cables and (whenever it might be) the water pipes for the solar heat exchanger, I cut some plasterboard quickly and screwed it up to cover the gap on both walls. And then I cut a bigger piece for the ceiling to close all of that up too.

There’s a hole too behind one of the beams that I hadn’t managed to fill in when I did the ceiling. I cut some wood offcuts and I’ve blocked that off now – well, sort-of.

All of this involved a huge run-around for bits and pieces of wood and plasterboard. All of this wore me out completely. I had to stop regularly for a rest and at the end of it all it took me until just after 13:00 to do a couple of simple jobs like that. It’s easy to see just how much this illness has affected me.

But one thing can be said – and that is the 500-watt ash-sucker that I had bought years ago with the aim of converting it into a vacuum cleaner. Seeing as how we were having another impressive day, I gave it a run out to clean up the dust and plasterboard. And it worked in spades too. It’s made an astonishing difference to everything, particularly once I’d started to attack the rest of the room with it. I should have tried this before, and I wish that I had more time to do it again.

After lunch, I did a little more tidying up and then went down to pick up Caliburn. And he was ready too. And even more interestingly, the bill came to much less than half what I had paid in Brussels. He had checked the other side too, the one that they had done up there and told me that it was okay and any other sound that I might hear are not anything to worry about.

As an aside … "you’ll get used to these" – ed … I’d enjoyed driving my little Peugeot. Certainly showing her age, but she was still a fun car to drive around in and considering it had cost me just the diesel to borrow her, I had had a good deal.

Montlucon was next. I was early so I went for a stroll around, and then down to the tyre place. Caliburn now has brand new tyres on the rear to go with his good snow tyres on the front, and a reasonable spare too. Two more snow tyres next winter and then two more decent Hankooks in 18 months time and that will do for a couple of years.

With a full tank of fuel, I drove back here. It was 18:45 when I returned.

After tea, I had a relax again and now I’m going to have an early night. I’ve decided to hit the road tomorrow and head back to Leuven.

Tuesday 6th December 2016 – SO HERE I AM …

… back home again to stay for a few days if I can last out. The first time that I will have stopped here since November last year.

And I wish that I wasn’t here either. The internet is down, the ‘phone isn’t working, the room is covered in dust, some animal has made it inside and made a mess that I shall have to clear up. It’s all so depressing.

I lit the fire and that immediately awoke a hibernating fly that has been buzzing around my head all night. I can’t find half of the stuff that I need for cooking so it was a very rudimentary meal that I had, cooked in the oven bit of the woodstove so that’s something, I suppose. But I can’t see me being here for long.

On a more positive note, all that I can say about these Ace Hotels is that they live up to their names. I’ve paid twice the price for conditions and facilities that haven’t been as good as this. I had a really good sleep and was off on my travels again during the night, although you are probably eating your breakfast this morning so I’ll spare you the details.

Breakfast was superb too. In fact, everything about it was definitely good value for money from my point of view.

When they threw me out I went to the Tax Office and found that my hospital payments are all up-to-date which is good news. I did a little shopping and then headed out to Evaux-les-Bains. I was early so I tidied up a little (yes, just a little) in Caliburn. The garage where I have to go is a body shop as you might expect, and he had an old Ford Vedette V8 awaiting attention.

These are copies of 1940s American cars sold by Ford France, and when that company was nationalised after World War II, Simca took over the plant and designs and carried on making them. Simca Vedettes are reasonably common, but a Ford is rare.

So we have a plan for the repair, and he’s going to have a look at the rust that’s appearing on the nearside sill while he’s at it. I’m entitled to borrow a car while the repair work is being done, so I may as well have everything done all at once.

From there I had a delightful meander through the countryside. The wheel bearing is by now driving me mad so I went to see the garagiste there and we had a chat. He can fit Caliburn in Wednesday afternoon and Thursday which is good for me – it means that I can hit the road Friday night. He’s going to find me a hire car for a couple of days while Caliburn is receiving attention.

I’ll nip into Montlucon tomorrow morning and take two wheels with me. If the tyres have arrived, i’ll have them fitted. If not, I’ll leave the wheels and go back for them in the hire car. That means that I’ll spend the first part of the morning fitting Caliburn’s winter tyres on the front.

That’s what I should have done in the first place.

Monday 5th December 2016 -DRAT AND DOUBLE-DRAT!

The other week, we discussed the problem of burst tyres on the motorway.

And so it should come as no surprise to learn that it was the turn of Yours Truly today.

Not quite on the motorway – in fact about 400 metres after I’d pulled off at Montlucon. But a flat tyre just the same. There’s a nail in it somehow.

Luckily, if there is such a thing that can be called lucky, regular readers will recall from 2012 when I had a blow-out on the M6 near Stoke on Trent, I’d pushed the boat out and bought three really good Hankook tyres. The fourth was a second-hand cheap tyre that I had bought because of the wheel that was attached to it. There was plenty of tread on it but I didn’t expect it to last very long. Anyway, it’s this one that has the puncture.

There’s a spare on Caliburn and that was a second-hand one that I bought for the wheel (it was the time when I was collecting a second set of wheels for the winter tyres). But when I had a look at it … well … I’ve thrown away better tyres than this. A fair amount of tread to be sure, but standing around for as long as it has has done it no favours. But at least I was mobile with not much effort.

selfish parking montlucon allier franceMy new enhanced mobility took me to the LeClerc supermarket where I stocked up with another big supply of food for Belgium. And while I was there, I had another big laugh at the selfishness of other drivers.

The driver of this car parked it up at the supermarket – and pretty badly parked at that – and walked away – and then turned round to come back and parked his car even worse, straddling the white lines.

The selfishness of people is astonishing, isn’t it?

Having done the shopping, I went off in search of some tyres. I’ve ordered two brand-new Hankooks and they will be delivered on Friday. They will be going on the front, the other Hankook that is still on the front will be the spare, and the nasty spare tyre will be going in the bin.

But I’m not thinking very clearly here. What I should have done was to forget about the new tyres, come back home and fitted Caliburn with his winter tyres on the front. And the money situation is going to be important because on the way down from Leuven, I could feel the other wheel bearing start to tighten up and that’s going to have to be looked at. It’s yet more expense that I can do without.

I had a decent sleep last night and the breakfast at the Premiere Class was quite good. And then I hung around there doing stuff until about 11:00. When they threw me out of the hotel I hit the road and drove steadily down to Montlucon

tacot railway station narrow gauge bourbon l'archambault allier franceI cut the corner off down at the end of the road and came back through Bourbon l’Archambault, and this building caught my eye.

You should all know what it is because I’ve taken you to see a few of these. It’s the old railway station of Bourbon l’Archambault and the railway concerned is the tacot, the metre-gauge railway network that covered the Allier during the first half of the 20th Century.

Built far too late to have a decisive influence on the country’s transport policy and built too cheaply, serving the layout of the terrain rather that the needs of the passengers (one commentator described the railway stations as decorating the abandoned landscape), the only surprise was that they lasted aslong as they did before road transport swept them away

There’s a new chain of budget hotels opening in France – called Ace Hotels. One has been built on the edge of Montlucon and so I went for a look around.

ace hotel montlucon allier franceAt just €49:00 per night, it’s excellent. Certainly the best budget hotel in which I’ve ever stayed. The only complaint is that there aren’t enough of them yet.

My view from the window was excellent, right across the motorway and into the Combrailles at the back. That’s where I’ll be heading tomorrow.

So in the meantime, I ordered a pizza and wasn’t that a disappointment? Overpriced, undercooked and crushed up on one side of the box – someone had carried it vertically.

I shan’t be going to that pizza place again.

Thursday 19th May 2016 -I WAS OFF …

… on my travels again today.

I started off at the Doctor’s this morning at &0:00, only to find that my doctor is on holiday and it was a locum in attendance. That means that most of what I wanted to discuss was pretty pointless but I handed over a few letters from the hospital and had a form signed, as well as a quick check-up. My heart-beat is high but apart from that, things seem to be quite normal for now.

Montlucon was the next port of call. I had to pay a bill at the laboratory that does my blood tests and then another bill at the tax office for all of the documents that the hospital gave me before I went off to Leuven. There’s nothing else outstanding that I cans ee for the moment, although I have a couple of bills to pay at Leuven when I return.

Once that was out of the way I went back home for an hour, most of which was spent chatting to Nicolette whom I encountered in the lane. She seemed to be quite concerned about my health, which is nice of her.

Caliburn had his controle technique at 15:OO and the garage had forgotten that I was coming. But they squeezed us in and of course Caliburn passed with flying colours. And then we nipped off to the other side of St Gervais d’Auvergne for his service. So he’s all done and dusted now and ready for the road.

Back here, I crashed out for an hour and then made tea. Microwaved potatoes and mushroom and lentil curry was on the menu followed by some of Liz’s home-made vegan ice-cream. And now I’m off to bed. I’m feeling even worse than yesterday and to make matters worse, my “upset stomach” has returned.

I’ll see if I can pick up where I left off last night because I was off on a few travels too. The first part involved my being somewhere on the continent – it may have been in Occupied Europe or a neutral country during the war but it was a big tower-block kind of building. I was talking to a woman there who was expressing her surprise that the top floor was occupied by the British Royal Air Force Bomber Command which was using the premises to direct the bombing attacks against Germany, whereas just a couple of floors down, the German Luftwaffe had offices used to direct fighter control against the British bombers. I replied that that wasn’t the only thing that was unusual – out in the grounds was a military hospital where half the staff was British and half was German and they were dealing with wounded soldiers of both armies.
From there, I found myself in Crewe in a huge traffic queue trying to go over Edleston Road bridge. I was in a driverless car – a while Volkswagen Karmann Ghia – and so I left the car to see how it would do. And it advanced quite nicely in the traffic, except that it was going too fast for me to walk after and with my illness I wasn’t able to run after it – and this really had be worried. I remember that on the bridge was an end-terraced house with the door round the side (which actually fronted onto Edleston Road) and it was actually my house. I was reminiscing about how many of these houses used to be built on the bridges in Crewe.
We haven’t finished yet, because there was a football match taking place between one of Pionsat’s teams and a team that consisted mainly of females and which only had 10 players. Pionsat were however struggling to get on top in this game and on one occasion they broke clean though the defence and the player had a shot but a defender stuck out a foot and diverted it out onto the post and out for a corner. From the corner the ball came in and the keeper missed it but a Pionsat player headed the ball in off the post for a goal. There were three Pionsat players in an offside position but they weren’t interfering with play so there was no reason why the goal should be disallowed but one of the defenders, a young man, argued so much with the referee that in the end he was sent off the field, which tilted the game even further into Pionsat’s favour.

I’ll see if I can pick it up from there.

Friday 18th March 2016 – DAY FIVE …

… of my hospital marathon began with yet another early start, long before the alarm went off. And what’s more, there is cause to celebrate because today is when I start the “once per day” injections. No more evening visitors! Wha-hey!

I had a nice leisurely breakfast and then set off for Montlucon. My appointment isn’t until 10:30 but I left with plenty of time because I had plenty that I needed to do.

And while I’m on the road to Montlucon, let me tell you about my voyages last night.We started off tonight with some kind of middle-class family. Their house was built over a stream and so they had had to line the stream with rocks especially up the sides of the banks so as to make some kind of solid foundations for the house to be built on. But they couldn’t find any hydrofuge cement – the cement that’s used for making waterproof joints in building materials – so we could join and then point the stones without there being any problem about the joints being affected by the damp and the water in the stream.
I was then off with Pete Dillon from London whom I knew from a few years back. We were chatting in this house somewhere and then Pete had to go off and give a quote for a job. it was one of these jobs like The 39 Steps job – the “fourth at bridge” scene from Carry On Regardless but it was to do with a position as a butler. So off he went for his interview and I stayed behind to watch another Carry On film about a girl who had to catch a train. The train was about to pull out before she could board it but she grabbed hold of some kind of trolley and her suitcase was handcuffed to her other wrist. She had to run along the platform, up in the lift, across the bridge and down the lift on the other side and back down the other platform with this trolley and her suitcase, and then make a valiant leap on board the train, trolley suitcase and all. And then there was another man also late for the train and he helped her board the train. After all of this, Pete came back, waking me up for I’d fallen asleep, and it turned out that despite all that this company had said, it was Terry who was trying to put together a team to do this job. They’d been off to this big white house to have a good look around it. Terry had given a quote that worked out at about 6 hours per person in this team, about £800 in total. I said to Pete that this worked out at quite a decent rate and he agreed with me. So off we walked, down this lane and onto this 1910s type of housing estate nominally at the top end of Crewe off to the east of the top end of Underwood Lane. This was a really nice, pleasant area, especially in the sun, with nice pleasant gardens and fronts of the houses. I remember saying that if I were ever to want to come back to live in Crewe, this would be an area that would be high on my list. I told him that I lived in Gainsborough Road and he told me that he lived in Fallowfield. I said that there were some nice areas of Fallowfield, so he challenged me to name any. Of course, knowing Fallowfield, I couldn’t even think of one and I was really struggling about this.
It was now Day Three (of what, I have no idea) and we were doing something about testing cricket bats and we’d become quite good at this. In the end, our batting techniques were being used by the England cricket team and they got up to quite a quick score in one of the matches. They then realised that they had left part of their equipment behind so someone had to return for it. This person discovered that someone had left his mobile phone behind and the sound recorder was running and you could hear all of the antics of the team. This led to it being called “Whacko” after the Jimmy Edwards radio programme.

First stop in Montlucon was the Laboratory. I have to pay them for their services since I came out of hospital and they need to be up-to-date as I won’t be using them now for a while. And next stop was the surgical equipment shop. I hadn’t realised that I had had to pay for the surgical stockings that I had had to wear while I was in hospital. But they had sent me a bill and all of this was in the vicinity.

coronarography hospital montlucon allier franceRound the corner to the hospital and I couldn’t resist taking this photo of part of the building, even if the camera on the phone didn’t do it justice. This must be where old-timers like Yours Truly bring our fizzy pop so that it can be examined.

And so reflecting upon this, I went off for my scan.

This injection that I had to have for the scan was just like something for a cow. It was huge. But they fitted me with a drain so that they could let it into my bloodstream as required. It took ages to do and it wasn’t until 11:20 that I was turfed out. Chief body-scanner hadn’t had chance to look at my photos but he promised to ring me (not that I would be there) to tell me what he had seen.

On the way out, I was buttonholed by the receptionist of the body-scanners. They had realised that I’m a private patient and so I needed to sign a form so that they could submit it to my insurance company for reimbursement. I thought to myself “at last! An efficient hospital department with its finger on the pulse!”.

I nipped upstairs to pick up my papers but the blasted, perishing doctor hadn’t done them despite me 10:30 au plus tard. I had to wait until – yes – 12:25 before he let me have my papers – a whole hour and more and so I had missed the Tax Office and I needed to pay them too for the consultations. Totally pathetic!

And that’s not all that is totally pathetic either. I’m supposed to be taking things easy and not exerting myself, and here I am, on my FIFTH day back at the hospital for something that is nothing whatever to do with my illness either. This is just completely miserable. I won’t ever recover like this!

Anyway, I went off to LeClerc for some shopping and then back to the Carrefour for some chips and vegetables – and much to my surprise the chips and veg were warm. And then I had to loiter around until 14:00 and the opening of the Tax Office.

They were very friendly in the Tax Office but that didn’t alter the fact that I had to wait half an hour for them to try to make the printer work so that I could have some receipts for my payments, but that didn’t work either. It just wasn’t my day, was it?

I finally made it back to my house at about 16:30 and then, for once, I could take it easy without having to rush home to Liz and Terry’s for the nurse and an injection. And I forgot that, with it being Friday night, it’s chips night there too.

So now, it’s yet another early night because, try as I might, I can’t shake off these morning injections quite yet.

Thursday 17th March 2016 – IT’S DAY FOUR …

…of my hospital marathon – the day that I had a marathon session in the allergy clinic, just by way of a change. And just by way of a change I was up a long while before the alarm went off too

And that surprised me immensely because I hadn’t ‘arf been on my travels during the night too.

I started off at the allergy clinic (I can’t keep away from here, can I?) and we were making up a soundtrack tape – don’t ask me why – and we found a record featuring someone singing but there were also loads and loads of background noises of all kinds of things that represented actions and items that were taking place in the song. We were listening to it. Liz was only listening with half an ear to it and all of a sudden she pricked up her ears – “did I hear a fox?”. “I think that it’s something on this record” I replied. We played the record back two or three times and, sure enough, there was some kind of reference in it to a fox, and the fox is barking away in the background.
Liz made a subsequent appearance too, in reference to a school trip that she was organising. In fact, she wasn’t really organising it because it was now September and the kids had been back at school for three or four weeks. The aim of this trip was that it was some kind of field trip which involved the children being away for a few days and this was to take place at the end of December. So much time and trouble had gone into the organisation of all of this but people had forgotten to tell the parents about it and it was only now that people at the school were discussing the presentation of the event to the parents. But Liz’s school was in such a poor, deprived area that it was obvious that not many of the families – Group B families was how she described them – would be able to afford the trip and wouldn’t have the possibility to save up between now and the date that payment needed to be made so that their children could go. So rather than be an exclusive trip and not allow some of the poorer kids to go, they were talking about postponing this trip to another year and maybe a few months later in the year so that everyone would have a chance to save up for it.
Next stop was back in Crewe, where I was going for a walk. and I’d been for a walk down Market Street, passing underneath the Cumberland Bridge at the bottom and into Middlewich Street (where we were a few weeks ago, as you might recall). As I was crossing the road I had to start to run as a car came around the corner under the bridge from Market Street at something of a speed on the wrong side of the road, which is actually the right side of the road because we are talking about the UK, although for some reason I wasn’t aware of this. So I had to make a run for the pavement. I had the idea that the road under the bridge was a one-way street, which it wasn’t as vehicles were coming from both directions. Anyway, I was around the corner by now and walking up Middlewich Street and a bus was coming down the street, travelling quite quickly. he reached the bottom and swung round to the right to go underneath the bridge but a car came hurtling out from somewhere under the bridge, shot off up the side of the railway line where there is no road, causing the bus to jam on his brakes. He only just missed this car. I carried on with my walk and it was dark by now. I’d been chatting to a couple of people whom I’d met on my travels but by now I had arrived at a place that was a bank. It had a cash-point which was in the basement, and there were people in there using it. It occurred to me to go and check my English bank account so went downstairs. I pulled out my card ready to use and while I was waiting my turn I noticed that there was something like a shop counter down here, with money all over the place, but no-one had taken any notice at all of this money. I already had a fair bit of money in my wallet, by the way. While I was sorting myself out, another person came down the steps behind me so I told him to go ahead – I’ll be a minute or two yet. he looked at me strangely and said “do you always carry that enormous amount of money around with you?”. I said “no” and carried on doing what I was already doing. But he stood there watching me. I told him again to go ahead and use the machine but he just stood there. I was starting to sense that we were going to have some kind of confrontation but just then, one of my friends from Brussels came in and came downstairs to use the cash point. He (my friend) asked me “what’s 212 plus 212?” as if this was the key to his PIN. I was having to be very vague in my reply because of this other person lurking around in the vicinity. But now of course there were two of us in there, both of whom were likely to be potential victims for this guy loitering around on the stairs.
We haven’t finished yet either, for there was some other part of the dream going on about my youngest sister. She was with a friend and they both drifted in and out somewhere along the way. But in the meantime there was a man who had come from the UK and was now in the USA who had travelled all around the USA on something of an extended holiday. He’d retired from work and there was a great deal of confusion about his pension arrangements, what employment pensions he was entitled to and what he was going to receive. In the end, after a great deal of argument and discussion, he’d been to his former employer who had promised to look into everything. This was an oil company, and the people there decided to make a presentation to him. They gave him an old oil drum which, while not sounding as it it was very much, was actually quite symbolic because it had fallen off a ship somewhere off the coast of New England and washed all the way down along the eastern coast of America (regardless of prevailing winds, tides and ocean currents), round Cape Horn and the Tierra del Fuego and then back up the western coast of America (regardless of prevailing winds etc) and had been recovered again near Seattle. They presented it to him as a symbol of his own voyage all around the USA. Eventually, it worked out that they had found three pension entitlements for him and so he could live happily ever after.

And so you can see why I was astonished by my early night.

On the way to Montlucon through the snow, which dramatically cleared by the time that we reached Pionsat, and then it was quite straightforward as far as the hospital, although I did stop for some cash at the bank on the edge of the town, seeing how the nurse will probably want paying this weekend before I go. And being nice and early at the allergy clinic, that meant of course that they were all late.

But I did happen to notice the first E-plate on the car park. It was a, EA — KK registration so I reckon that it’s about three weeks since they first came out. They now seem to be slowing down to well over two years a letter.

At the allergy clinic, first thing that they did when they arrived was ask me to take off my upper clothes and to check my body. Then they sat me down in a comfortable chair (or what passes for a comfortable chair around there), gave me a couple of injections and then started to squirt something out of a syringe into my mouth – something quite minty and also quite bitter. Then they told me to take a drink of water.

This was how we went on for much of the day. I’ve no idea what it was that they had given me but they ought to have given something to the room and the chair to stop them spinning around while I was trying to sit there quietly and do some work on my Canada notes.

They brought up some food too, but it was, as I expected, some meat (there seems no point in going to an allergy clinic and telling them about your allergies if they are going to totally ignore them, is there?). I was prepared for this however, and had brought along some vegan cheese and tomato butties. But we did have coffee too and that wasn’t too bad.

When I’d finished and the room had stopped spinning, I went off to find Caliburn and then I headed back to my place for an hour or so to gather up some of my possessions, or such that I could remember of them.

And the snow had gone, much to my surprise and pleasure. It was in fact quite warm and I felt a little better once I had warmed up.

Back at Liz and Terry’s, I had another early night. I need to build up my strength prior to leaving because it’s a long way to Brussels, even if I am going to do it in a couple of steps. The days when I could do a full day’s work and then drive the 800kms between Brussels and my Farm through the night – they seem to be long-gone now.

Wednesday 16th March 2016 – HOW WE LAUGHED …

… when the nurse said something last night about it going to snow today. And so would you have done, given the glorious day we had yesterday.

But coming back from Montlucon, and passing through Villebret where you start to climb up into the Combrailles, I saw a few suspicious-looking white flakes being blown about in the sky. By the time I climbed up over the Font Nanaud and down the other side towards St Gervais, the sky was clear again but about half an hour after arriving back here, we got the lot. There’s now about 10mm of snow outside and it’s still falling.

Yes, and I have to go back (GRRRRR!) to Montlucon and the hospital tomorrow too. I arrived there nice and early but had to wait for almost three quarters of an hour before I was seen properly by the nurse. She examined where I’d been injected and where I’d been patched, and told me that there is some reaction so I need to return for further tests.

You don’t need me to tell you what I think of that.

But anyway, off up to the day hospital and the blood transfusion. My favourite nurse and my second-favourite student were there and once more there was a decent and convivial crowd in the room. We all had quite a laugh and a good time, which made us all feel better and helped the time pass by.

Lunch was the usual disgusting muck but at least it was something, I suppose. And although I was finished by 14:30 I told them that I wasn’t leaving until I had had my mid-afternoon coffee.

On the way back from Montlucon I got myself lost in the back streets trying to find the short cut to LIDL. I needed some of my vitamin B12 juice and some sparkling water, and I also bought a couple of big packets of crisps and some packets of sweets to nibble on while I’m driving to Leuven. And they sell 1-litre bottles of orange juice in there and they are just the thing to drink in the van while I’m driving but as usual, Bane of Britain forgot to buy any.

I was going to go back home for a couple of hours afterwards too but it was rather cold and that made me think for a moment, and then with the white stuff, I decided that being back in the warmth and off the road was a much better plan.

And here I am and there I’ll be in a moment – in bed. I’m not going for a walk tonight as I’ve walked far enough today (as well as going all around the hospital I had to go off to find the Records Department to pick up a copy of my file to take to Leuven).

And while I’m on the subject of files and records, I did ask the doctor there to prepare his file and records ready for me to pick up. And so I went to see his secretary and it will come as no surprise to you all to learn that he hasn’t done so. I told her “Friday at the latest” (well, actually vendredi au plus tard, but you get the idea).

So I hope that I have a more interesting and exciting sleep than I did last night. I was out like a light in a very deep sleep and the only recollection of what happened was what was on the dictaphone. And we were dealing with football issues yet again.

We were talking about the Controle Technique in football (well, exactly!) and one of the issues in this is that the player concerned has to take a penalty kick. Now it doesn’t matter whether the player scores or misses, or whether it’s saved by the keeper – it’s all down to whether the player is capable of kicking the ball in that situation. One player having his Controle Technique came out onto the field. He was wearing a red football shirt with his name on the back – a really long name that ended with Platini. He was preparing to take the kick but we noticed that underneath his shirt he was wearing a Father Christmas outfit complete with hood trimmed in white and with a white bobble – and his hood is up on his head. He runs in to take the penalty as soon as the whistle is blown, but almost immediately the whistle is blown again to stop the kick being taken, in order to order him to put his hood down so that the controller could see his head and face. And so he does, and then he runs in and takes the kick again. However the keeper is really quick off his line and manages to block the ball with his knees. The ball thus ricochets off his knees up into the air. Now the goal that they are using for this is actually an over-bridge, so it’s clearly the correct dimensions for a goal underneath it. The ball balloons up and over the bridge past the people who are crossing the bridge and then back down the other side and goes quite a way away. The man who has taken the penalty now needs another ball to do something different and so he climbs up the side of the cutting which this bridge crosses, and plucks another ball that was in a bush that was growing on the top of the cutting, so they can continue this Controle Technique.

After all of that, I was down here early yet again, breakfasted and off on the road at 07:30 with the coffee in my Tim Hortons thermal mug. The drive was pretty uneventful with no-one in my way and even though I stopped at the bank to add to the fighting fund, I was at the hospital for 08:20.

I spent most of the day dealing with my Canada 2014 voyage for the month of September. I’ve now arrived back on Nova Scotia (travelling backwards of course) but then I had to start from the other end at Montreal and reach as far as the Sorel – St Ignace ferry across the St Lawrence because there’s a gap in my notes. I know that they are there because I remember transcribing them and I’m sure that I’ve seen them, but they are probably out of order so I’ll need to find them – and the easiest way to find them is to start at the other and and file the stuff from there, and eventually I’ll come across them.

That’s a nice job for me tomorrow then, seeing as how I have to spend all blasted day in that perishing mausoleum.

Monday 14th March 2016 – WELL THAT’S ME TOTALLY P155ED OFF!

I had my blood test at the hospital this morning, and the blood count has gone down yet again to 8.1. And that’s despite having a blood transfusion the other day. The operation that I had to go through 6 or 7 weeks ago has clearly done no good whatever and I might just as well have saved myself the agony.

The thing that gets me though is that no-one in the hospital seems to care. Here they are, messing about with allergy tests for a different medication to deal with the immunity issues following the removal of the spleen, and on Friday I’m in hospital for a scan on my lung to see where this blood clot (the one in my lung that I picked up in hospital) has got to.

But as to my underlying illness and the causes of it, and any potential solution – not a word!

What made me even more depressed about all of this is that while I was sitting in the allergy clinic with all of these patches and injections and so on, I was editing all of the photos that I took in Montreal and sorting out all of the notes that relate thereto. And then I got to thinking about just how much I enjoyed the city and how much I felt at home there. And then I reached a conclusion.

And that is that seeing as how no-one cares, then I don’t either. if nothing definite comes out of my visit to Leuven next week and they can’t sort something out, then I’m on the next plane to Montreal. I’ll find a quiet room in a house somewhere around the Cote des Neiges, which really is my favourite part of Montreal, and let nature take its course.

I can’t go on like this. it’s nothing short of purgatory for me to have to go through all of what I’m going through and for no good purpose either. I may as well not be here and be somewhere else instead, whether in this world, the New World or even the next world.

What didn’t help matters very much was that I had another one of those comfortable, reassuring dreams where everything went according to plan, our hero got the girl and we both walked off together into the sunset and all of that – something that never ever happened to me in real life and how I wished that it had.

I was back playing in my rock group from the 1970s again and we were totally unrehearsed – we hadn’t played together for years and we were featuring in a venue somewhere. This was downstairs in a basement somewhere, rather like Enoch’s in Crewe used to be, and we weren’t even sure what numbers we were going to play, never mind how we were going to play them. This went on and we didn’t have all that much idea about what we were going to do. We spent so much time discussing and debating it that we weren’t actually getting anything done. There were quite a few of our friends there, including one particular girl whom I fancied and who I was trying to impress, who were coming to see us and so we HAD to be organised. Came the afternoon of the gig and we decided that we would have a rehearsal. I headed off towards the rehearsal room, carrying my bass guitar and there was some girl, whom I had seen vaguely back in the past but I hadn’t particularly noticed very much, came over to me and asked me if my guitar was a Gibson SG. I told her to count the strings, which she did, and agreed that there were just four of them. And so I told her that it was in fact a Gibson EB3. We started to talk about bass guitars and musical instruments, and she said that she had a mandolin with four strings on it. Of course – a mandolin – that brings back Lindisfarne and “Road to Kingdom Come” and “No Time to Lose”, all of that kind of thing. We ended up having quite a chat about this kind of thing, and she said that she could actually play some Lindisfarne music on the mandolin. It’s always been my ambition to play in a folk-rock group like Lindisfarne so I egged her on to go and fetch her mandolin,which she did and we had a brief jam session. After that, we wandered off together hand in hand. As I said earlier, this was another one of these comfortable situations and I wish that I could remember who she was, or even what she looked like – rather different from the Girl from Worleston the other night whose face is still vividly fixed in my mind. Anyway, off we went, hand in hand and there were a few people loitering in the vicinity who noticed the pair of us together like that and gave a little smile to each other. We walked to a rocky wall where there were a few seating areas set into it at various levels – just flat, grassy areas. I invited her to sit down with me but she said that she had other things to do and didn’t have the time. I continued to encourage her to sit down, she continued to be doubtful and it was at this moment that I woke up rather dramatically and shattered the illusion, much to my dismay.
After the usual crawl down the corridor I ended up at the football – Nantwich Town in fact. And while Nantwich Town might have a new ground, down on Kingsley Fields, this match wasn’t being played there. And neither was it being played on their old ground at Jackson Avenue either, but in the street in London Road right more-or-less outside Churche’s Mansions. I was watching the game, with about 4 or 5 others (huge crowds they have in Nantwich), a couple of girls and a couple of kids, having a kick-around with the balls.There was a really strong, swirling wind blowing that was creating havoc and on one occasion, much to my surprise, I actually caught the match ball one-handed, swerving around in the wind as it went out of play and that was really impressive. For the rest of it, the conditions were really difficult and catching the ball, even a simple catch, was really difficult if not impossible. We were actually watching this at the back of a river and the house rear yards backed right onto it. One small boy was climbing over the back wall and the wooden fence on top and lost his footing, sliding straight down into the river and emerging all covered in green slime. That certainly looked unhealthy! All of these houses had basements that were well below the level of the water but were somehow really dry. I wouldn’t have liked to have lived down in there, although there were people quite happily doing so. There were two teenage girls watching this football match and they lived in one of the houses. At half-time they went back to their house where the mother was cleaning the room of one of these girls, and one of the girsl asked the other what she would like for breakfast. The other replied that she would like one round of cheese on toast with half a packet of crisps and a coffee. I said “breakfast? It’s getting on for 10:30 and most of us had eaten breakfast long before this match kicked off”. But anyway, the first girl dragged a big metal wood-stove out from a corner into the middle of her little basement room ready to fill it and light it to make the toast and put the kettle on. They asked me what I would like to which I replied that I’d had my breakfast a long time ago, but I’ll have a cup of coffee with them. They next asked me what coffee I wanted and what mug I wanted and I thought that they weren’t half making life complicated when all that I wanted was a simple cup of coffee.

But anyway, enough of this. I was up early enough, breakfasted and on the road by 07:40. And what a beautiful morning it was too. I was in Montlucon at the hospital by 08:30 and in the comfy chair by the power point at 08:40 too.

I had the blood test, as I mentioned, and then had the drain fitted, and then injected and patched with all kinds of things. My companion from the other day was there too and we had quite a chat. And while I might have won the “mine’s bigger than yours” competition by having the largest lump on my arm, I felt really sorry for her with all of the tests that she was going through and the mess that they had made of her arm. In consolation, I let her have my mid-morning cake to cheer her up.

We had quite a few moments of humour too, including when one of the others asked if she could leave the room to use the bathroom.
“You’re supposed to raise your hand” I retorted.
“Just like school” said someone else.
At least, despite everything else, there’s a good feeling of cameraderie there in that clinic and the nurse is a really good sport too, which is good.

But the bad side of this is that I’ve had a few adverse reactions so I need to come in again. I explained my situation, all of my hospital appointments and my visit to Belgium and as a result, exceptionally, they can fit me in provisionally at 09:00 on Thursday.

I mentioned that at this rate I ought to be looking for an apartment here in the vicinity of the hospital and asked the young girl here with me whether she had a spare bed in her room. She said she did, but her mother wouldn’t like it. I asked “who cares about your mother?” which made everyone smile, but didn’t have the desired effect.

Not that I expected it to either, but there you go.

As for the blood test though, it’s on the limit of the blood transfusion level, but that’s not good enough for me. I’m off to Leuven next week – 800-odd kilometres by road – and I need to be on my best form for the journey. So what I’ve done is to change my little one-hour appointment back at the allergy clinic from tomorrow to Wednesday at 09:00 seeing as how there was a space, and then went up to the day-hospital and persuaded them to take me in straight afterwards for a blood transfusion. That way, then at least I’ll be in something-like reasonable health to undertake the journey. Coming back won’t be too much of a problem as I don’t have a time-limit for that so if I’m tiring out, I can take a good rest and carry on later.

But as I also said earlier, I’m thoroughly depressed by the way that all of this is panning out. I’m thoroughly hating the past, hating the present and hating the future too.

To cheer myself up, I went to Carrefour and the Flunch to have a plate of chips and vegetables but that was a waste of time as they were stone-cold. Liz had given me a little shopping list that involved going to Grande Frais and the Carrefour so I bought the necessary and looked for something else to cheer me up but there wan’t anything there that took my fancy. That’s always the case when you’re in the middle of a black depression – nothing will pull you out of the pit.

Back home – for only an hour as Liz wanted the shopping by 16:00 – I still couldn’t find my copy of Paint Shop Pro or anything else that I needed. But there was a little issue that the water in the home-made 12-volt immersion heater was off the temperature scale. I had to drain off 5 litres of the water and put 5 litres of cold water into it. I’ve also plugged the fridge into the main circuit so that it’ll now be working 24 hours per day. I’ll have to do something because with no-one there drawing any current, there’s tons of surplus electricity and it’s all dumped into the hot water.

Yes, 41 amps of surplus energy was being generated when I arrived and the cables to the immersion heater element were stone-cold – a far cry from 6 months ago when they overheated at half of that and I had to rewire everything. All of this, the temperature in the water and the amps that the cables are currently … "ohh! Very good!" – ed … handling just goes to show how much current was being lost by the rubbishy cables that I had been using. Decent cables, even half the diameter, properly crimped and soldered, is definitely the way to go and I wish that my soldering techniques would improve.

However, if things continue like this, my soldering techniques won’t be an issue.

I stopped for diesel on the way back and also to the pharmacie at Pionsat for the next lot of anti-biotic prescriptions (which wouldn’t have been necessary except for this spenectomie, and what a waste … "you’ve done that already" – ed … and then back to Liz and Terry’s.

After tea, which was a stir-fry with the stuff that I had bought earlier, I said “sod it!” and went to bed. I’ve had enough disappointments for one day. I’d already crashed out for half an hour on the sofa and it was beyond me to keep on going – not when I wasn’t in the mood to go on fighting.

Tomorrow is another day. Let’s see how we get on with that. Not any better, I bet.

I’ll leave you all to sit and read this rubbish – all 2322 words of it.

And serve you all right too!

Friday 11th March 2016 – JUST IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING …

… what happened last night with me not posting my blog, the answer was that by the time 20:15 came around, I was already tucked up in bed and out like a light. Crashing out was certainly the word – I had gone completely.

But then again, I’d had a hectic day – and one that had started not long after I had gone to sleep. And furthermore, it all started with yet another appearance by a girl who has been described on these pages as “the one that got away”. But for the second time in succession, she didn’t get away from my evil clutches last night.

Ohh no she didn’t!

I’d been out yet again in Nantwich, having been for a really good wander all around the Crewe Road End – Millstone Lane area of the town, having a good look at all of the houses and so on. And all of the area behind the houses on Millstone Lane, between there and The Crofts, had been cleared away, flattened and rolled out ready for a new housing estate to be built there. Even Flash Meakin’s hovel had gone. I wandered over there to make a brief inspection but the builders tried to chase me away. However, it was common land and so I had every right to be there, and I made sure that they knew it. And there I stayed. Having made my inspection, I wandered off to continue my travels and this is where I bumped into the aforementioned young lady. She was living on The Crescent apparently and so she invited me in for a coffee. We had a really good chat about old times and then she invited me to stay for dinner. So I prepared all of the vegetables and she cooked the food – a risotto it was. I was given a choice about what I wanted for dessert – beans on toast was mentioned (this is why I enjoy so much going on these nocturnal rambles – they are totally surreal) but of course I had some completely different ideas about what I wanted to have for afters. But I settled on a banana, which I suppose is rather symbolic. But then her young daughter came in and was telling us about how she had been threatened by some young boy who had somehow found his way into the house. She had been in the attic and had gone out onto the roof to see what was making a noise, and he had sneaked in behind her. When she came downstairs he surprised her. She was shocked and so the police were called and he was carted off, even though he insisted that he’d only done it for a dare. He ended up with 30 days inside and was ostracised by all of his friends. In the meantime, the two of us were carrying on chatting and the conversation came round to what was happening in the evening. I invited her to the cinema and her daughter thought that this was a really good idea. But her elder boy looked rather worried as if he was afraid of having his mum taken away from him. But there was no doubt that she was really keen to go to the cinema with me and I was of course just as keen to take her.

Yes, it’s a shame that things like this don’t happen to me in real life.

The alarm went off before I’d reached the exciting bit and it left me wondering about what would have happened had I been able to sleep in until the usual time of 07:45 instead of this wretchedly-early time of 07:00. I was feeling as if I’d been cheated out of 45 minutes of wishful thinking, but there we are, I suppose.

I was on the road by 07:40 and at the hospital at 08:35, managing to pinch the next-to-last parking space on the car park. The allergy clinic is weird, with just a half-dozen or so of comfortable seats, and with le being the first arrival, I had the pick of the chairs – right by the door by the power point. I had some kind of pattern drawn in biro on my arm, with initials and numbers, and then injected and some kind of fluid rubbed in. One or two of them flared up quite dramatically and the nurse measured them with some kind of hole gauge.

The nurse then found a sheet of something that resembled an aluminium-backed piece of bubble-wrap, peeled off the sticky front of it, stuck it to my back and then burst the bubbles so that, presumably, the product in each bubble would interact with my skin. I have to leave this on until Monday.

But if I think that I’m hard done-to, what happened to me was nothing to what happened to the young girl next to me. They drew some kind of chess-board on her arm and she had a huge number of injections, a couple of which flared up like nothing that I have ever seen before. One of them was starting to look like something out of Quatermass’s Experiment.

I felt so sorry for her that I let her have my cake that came with our mid-morning coffee. And then I invited her for a game of draughts on her arm.

One thing though that surprised me was that each one of us, on entering the room, had a drain put in our arms. Not that that was surprising, the surprising bit was that they didn’t use it for anything. Rather a waste of effort to me. But at least the nurse who did it had “the touch”. I hardly felt a thing.

But my results were such that I have to come back for a full morning on Monday, and an hour or so on Tuesday. And as for my Monday-morning blood test, the nurse will do it then and there as long as I remember to take my prescription with me.

We were thrown out at 12:00 and I went down to the Amaranthe. I bought some more vegan cheese and some mixed seeds, as well as a couple of hundred grams of muesli biscuits. I think that I deserved a little treat. But the Amaranthe is now selling Mozzarella-like vegan cheese (and this is progress, considering that even 18 months ago they didn’t stock any at all), although I didn’t buy any to try as it looked to be tainted. I’ll pick some up next time maybe.

Lunch was a plate of chips and vegetables at the Flunch, and then I went around the Carrefour and the Auchan for some shopping. There were no loose porridge oats, but the Auchan “own-brand” packaged oats were a reasonable price so I bought a few packets of those. I can’t be without my muesli now, can I?

I went home afterwards for a relax and to look for some more stuff that I forgot the other day. I still can’t find my Paint-Shop Pro disk but I did manage to find my dash-cam. I’ve also copied all of the dictaphone notes onto a rewritable DVD and onto a back-up drive, one thing that I’ve been meaning to do ever since I finished transcribing them.

I went to the pharmacie in St Gervais on the ay back here. I needed to pick up the medication that I ordered. The good news about this is that a month’s supply of the new injections only cost half of the price of the current lot, and then of course it’s only going to be once a day too. So that’s something like progress anyway. I shan’t be struggling quite as much for finances.

But the bad news about it is that the other injection that I need to take with me to the hospital next Friday – it’s more like an injection for a cow or a horse, judging by the size of the box. I don’t like the idea of that.

I also forgot to ask for some more boxes for my empty needles, and then I also realised that I hadn’t been to pick up my paperwork from the Archives at the hospital either. It clearly wasn’t my day. And on leaving the town, someone in a small silver saloon of which the registration number began CZ flashed his lights and waved at me. I wish that I know who it was.

Chips were on the menu back here, so that’s twice today. Not that I am complaining of course, because we have real malt vinegar here. And then I crawled off to bed – I didn’t even go out for my walk, but then that’s no big deal because I’d walked enough (at least, for my present state of health) today.

And with this patch-thing on my back, I’m glad that I had a shower yesterday.

And so are we” said terry.

Monday 7th March 2016 – I WENT TO RESCUE …

… Caliburn today. And it’s a good job that I did too.

When I arrived around back at my place during mid-afternoon, it was just another grey, cold day with nothing particular to say about it. And I went inside to look for some stuff that I needed – some clothes, a small rolling suitcase, my missing Paint Shop Pro CD, my passport, the post, all kinds of stuff. And while I was up in the attic I remember thinking “blimmin’ ‘eck – it’s going dark early!”

caliburn ford transit snow les guis virlet puy de dome franceBut looking up, I could see that the skylights were completely snowed over and flakes the size of dinner plates were falling down. No wonder it was dark up there.

This wasn’t the time to be hanging about in my opinion. I grabbed what I could and headed for Caliburn and then headed for the hills before I could be snowed in.Luckily, after about 6 weeks of standing around, Caliburn started up easily so that was no problem.

And I’m glad in some respects that I didn’t have to hang around too much. It was taters in my attic – all of 5.9°C although it did warm up to 6.4°C after I had been there for an hour or so. Such are the advantages of having the place bung-full of insulation. I keep telling people – money spent on good insulation is never wasted.

But never mind that for a moment – let’s go back to this morning and the blasted nurse because he flaming well forgot me YET AGAIN! And it’s blood test day too so that has put the tin hat on it, hasn’t it?

I had made a special effort to get up early too, even though I was well away with the fairies.

It was an evening at weekend and, as was my custom, I’d gone out to a nearby town (and I can’t remember now which one it was) for a good prowl around. It was something that I did every weekend, and it was always to the same town, and I knew by heart everywhere to go here. It suddenly occurred to me that I was bored with it? Why didn’t I go to somewhere different? After all, the Potteries weren’t too far away. There, I had six towns to choose from and there was plenty to do, much of which would be totally new to me. But the downside of that was that where I was visiting, there was a kind of hotel where you could go for just a couple of hours and crash out. That was something that I did every time that I was there and I reckoned that it was quite important to me. There wasn’t anywhere to do that in Stoke on Trent, as far as I was aware. But on one of my walks around the town I was looking in the window of a motorcycle shop. There was a Honda 350cc in there – something totally modern that I had never seen before. It had no seat on it and the engine was missing, and the frame was really low-slung like a racing bike. My brother (him again???) came to stand next to me and we were looking at the bike. I told him that I couldn’t make out whether it was beautiful or totally hideous. There was also an old British 2-stroke twin in the window and that was much more like my kind of motorbike. He asked me about Hondas, and especially the Honda 250. Which was the best – the CB or the CD? I told him that the CB was more highly-tuned so it would respond better when being used under normal circumstances around town and on the road (ironically, whenever I had been asked this question in the 1970s, I had always recommended the CD).
From here, via a long convoluted trail I ended up back at my house with a crowd of people there, including my brother (yet again!) and the debut appearance on these pages of his wife. While we were talking, she suddenly produced a modern single-bore shotgun. This enraged me completely and right on the spur of the moment I started to sing a song that I made up on the spot as I was going along. Sung to the tune of “I don’t want to join the army” from “Oh! What A Lovely War!”, it started off –
“Don’t bring guns into my kitchen”
“Don’t bring guns into my hall”
And it concluded
“I may not want to kill”
“but I’m not so very ill”
“to let myself be shot inside my home”
and the astonishing thing about this is not only do I remember myself singing it, but the fact that I could come up with the lyrics, all of which scanned perfectly, as I was going along – and in a dream as well.
My technique must be improving!

Being fed up of waiting once 09:15 had arrived, I had my breakfast and then carried on with a few little things that I had to do, and seeing as how I was going to see my surgeon, I thought that I would make myself pretty.
“You’d better get a move on” said Terry. “We have to be off in four hours!”

So having done that and come back downstairs to another barrage of abuse – “well?” asked Terry. “When are you starting?” – we eventually had lunch and then off on the road to Montlucon.

Now I don’t know what they are spending the money on at the hospital but it’s not on the archives department, I’ll tell you that. It was like something out of Charles Dickens. Anyway, they can give me a complete copy of my file but not straight away as they need to photocopy it – at … gulp … €0:18 per page. This is going to run out to be very expensive. I can pick it up on Friday.

Back in the hospital, I’ve changed the appointment for the scanner. As you know, it should have been the day after my appointment in Leuven but that’s clearly not going to happen. But down at the secretariat of the X-ray department, they managed to find a little gap for me – they had a cancellation for 10:30 on Friday 18th of March and so I’m fitted in there.

I finally got round to seeing the surgeon, having bumped into my little student nurse on the way up and we had quite a chat. My surgeon didn’t say anything but the look on her face was enough when I told her that my blood count was going down quicker than the lifts in the hospital. Her response was “well, we’ll see what the scanner has to say and then we’ll see what else we can do for you”.

It was those last few words that filled me with foreboding.

But everything that I asked, and all of the problems that I discussed, everything was “we’ll see what the scanner has to say”. I really do believe that they have run out of ideas and are groping a little in the dark. But my stitches have indeed disappeared – they were indeed soluble – and now I can at last have a shower, which I shall be taking tomorrow.

I only had to wait two minutes for Terry, who had been to Brico Depot for an earthing rod – and then we were off back to my place.

And after everything back there, it was nice to be back behind the wheel of Caliburn even if there was a load of snow on the road as far as the Font Nanaud. I’ve missed driving, and I’m now toying with the idea of maybe going by road to Leuven.

That’s not as silly as it sounds, actually. I was in no difficulty at all with the driving, and I have four trips to make to Montlucon before I need to leave for Leuven so that will ease me back into it. And not only that, it will save on having to walk and drag a suitcase around with me while I change from train to train.

But even that might not be an issue because with all of the walking that I needed to do today, as well as all of the stair-climbing, I was moving quite a good deal easier than I was even yesterday, never mind last week when I first started on my exercise.

If only I could do something about this continual loss of blood – but if the nurse doesn’t come to give me the tests, what can I do about controlling it?

Wednesday 2nd March 2016 – I’M BACK …

… from the hospital, thanks to Liz who brought me home after she knocked off work. And thanks again to Liz who also took me there too.

That meant a crawl out of bed at some ridiculous time like 07:30 and a rushed breakfast, and then off on the road.

And I was pretty exhausted too, for last night I was on my travels again. And things about my house are clearly preying on my mind because I was somewhere out there. I’m not quite sure where all of this started but I remember it from walking down a footpath (which isn’t there) at the back of my house (which wasn’t my house) through the woods (which aren’t there) and out into a field around the back where this path took a sharp right-hand turn due to a very high bank being in the way. I’d lived here for years but this was the first time that I’d really paid much interest in this bank and I was astonished when a passenger train rattled its way along it. Five minutes later, a swarm of people came along the path and caught me in the middle of a reverie. It turned out that there was a railway station here in Virlet – the train had stopped there and discharged these people. I’d had no idea whatever that there was a railway station here, especially one so convenient for my house. All of the time I’d been getting the train to the nearest rail junction and then catching the bus, and this was all quite inconvenient.This railway station in Virlet opened up all kinds of new opportunities.
From here I ended up in a pub somewhere in Nantwich – I had an idea that it was something like the Millfields (which has featured before on my travels). Someone was having problems with the indicators on his car – a late-model Nissan 180B I think – and so I had volunteered to fix them. I wasn’t making much progress and so I was tempted just to stick them back any old how but twisting the front flasher around, it started to work correctly and so I was quite happy. All of these manoeuvres had led me to get into a position where my head was stuck though the serving hatch and so the barman asked me what I wanted. I replied that I wanted nothing at the moment, so I could see the landlord making a face and a gesture or two to the barman to hurry up and get rid of me. I ended up though having to bend down to screw this front indicator light into the leg of this person (yes, it’s all logical, this, isn’t it?) but he told me that where I was screwing it, it wasn’t there before. I could see that – in fact I could see on his leg exactly where it used to be because there were little scabs there over the wounds that the screws had made – and I told him that it was going to be very painful if I were to screw it back exactly where it was. But he insisted and told me to go ahead – and so I did.

We arrived in Montlucon about 10 minutes late but seeing as they weren’t ready for me (the blood didn’t arrive until 10:40) it made no difference whatever.

The nurse putting my drain in was astonished. “Mr Hall” she said. “You really do have some thick skin”
“Well, what do you expect?” I asked. “I used to be married”.

And then I sat around and waited, read a book, did some work on the computer, downloaded a pile more films, all of that kind of thing, and chatted to a couple of friends on the internet. And I had lunch too – a plate of lentils and diced carrots, a vegetable pâté, a fruit purée and an orange. Much to my surprise, they even remembered to bring me a coffee.

It was all done by 14:30 and I was ready to be discharged. That meant sitting in a draughty hospital foyer but much to my surprise they allowed me to stay up there in the warmth. That was a good move because I button-holed my doctor up there and told him that I wasn’t satisfied with my progress and the follow-up that I was (or wasn’t) having. He was quite insistent that everything was normal – the fact that I was having blood tests and the transfusion showed that there was a follow-up.

But I asked him about the loss of blood – whether it was normal for me to lose so much blood so rapidly. He told me that things wouldn’t settle down for a couple of months, but he was lost for words when I replied that at the rate that I’m losing blood, I would be lucky to still be here in a couple of weeks, never mind months.

And he was also lost for words when I told him that I still had my stitches in – some 5 weeks or so after the operation. But he told me that that’s not his department – I need to see the surgeon (and so I tried to, and she was out of course).

However, I told him that I had been summoned to attend a meeting with the Conseil Général of my insurance company and made up a good story of why that should be so, and so he’s arranged for me to have a copy of my file the next time that I’m there. What I really want it for is of course to take to Leuven with me when I go.

Liz came for me after she finished work and now I’m back here, having had more pie, green beans and new potatoes for tea.

And it was just as gorgeous as yesterday. I really am so lucky staying here with Liz and Terry who are doing such an excellent job of looking after me. As I have said before, I shall be really sorry to leave.

Thursday 18th February 2016 – AND WASN’T THAT A WASTE OF TIME?

We went off to Montlucon this afternoon and the hospital. Terry dropped me off and then went to do some shopping, and I hobbled gamely inside.

Much to my surprise, it didn’t take too long to be seen, and to be honest, I needn’t have wasted my time. Nothing was resolved here that couldn’t have been resolved by five minutes on the telephone and what is even worse, they could have held this interview while I had been in the hospital on another occasion. All that happened was that I was asked about 20 questions while the doctor made notes.

What is even worse is that I now have to come back on three more occasions in this respect, and two of those will be half-day sittings too. Saying that I’m fed up is something of an understatement.

We came back home via the pharmacie where we stopped so that I could find something to help with my nasal problems. It’s no fun having a code in de dose, Balcolm.

And so that was that. What a waste of time. And I don’t have much to spare either as you know, not at my age. And the amount of fuel we are using to travel the 100kms each way and the pain that I’m suffering during the journey is starting to get on my nerves.

I can’t say that I wasn’t prepared for the journey though. I’d fallen asleep watching an old Flash Gordon film from the early 1950s (and it was funny to hear the outer-space villains talking in extremely camp German accents) and managed something resembling a decent night’s sleep with just a couple of interruptions. I started off back working for Shearings again and I received a communication from them saying that I had to go to a certain hotel to pick up a coach from a driver who had been taken ill. I was in BKV, my old Morris 1300GT at the time, right by Jackson’s Corner in Willaston facing towards Nantwich, and after taking the phone call from the phone box there, found that I had locked myself out of the car. My jacket and all of my keys were in there. Luckily, the rear passenger door was open so I could enter the car that way. I did a “U” turn, right across the traffic, with no lights on or anything, which upset everyone else on the road. I checked everything that I had to make sure that I hadn’t forgotten everything, and then I was off. It transpired that where these people were staying was near Walsall in a hotel near the football ground car park. It was a huge, sprawling, rambling modern hotel which, from the outside, was not dissimilar to one that I had visited a few nights ago (although the interior was totally different). All of the drivers and hostesses had a huge communal bedroom with a pile of beds in it, some single and some double. Mine was a single bed right in the corner by the wall. I managed a couple of hours’ sleep and then found my way to the showers. That wasn’t easy and they were communal too. After the shower, I went to sort out my diesel receipts. With not having a fuel card for the coach, I would have to pay cash and seek reimbursement so this would be an opportunity to recycle some of my old receipts. There I was, sorting through a huge pile, and then I realised that that was a waste of time because how would anyone accept a diesel receipt for today that was dated 1999? I gave it up and went back to bed to have another sleep. I was awoken by a girl sleeping in a bed on the far side of a double bed being shared by two drivers. She was complaining about how people should be more careful about who sleeps with whom, because of all of the noise. One of the two drivers was complaining about how he had slept in a circus and how he had continually thrown his partner out of bed to wake him up as he snored like a bull. I asked him whether I had snored very much. He replied in the negative, saying that I was all right, so I made a face at this girl, wondering why she was dragging me into the conversation. We were then interrupted by a photographer who came in with a pile of primary school kids in sky-blue pullovers and grey trousers or skirts. The aim was to photograph all of us and I had brought Strawberry Moose with me so I made sure that he was quite prominent on the photo. I had then to go somewhere across the car park quite quickly and I’d taken Strawberry Moose with me. Some young boy from this photography session, aged about 7 or 8, came along and we were chatting about His Nibs, he being vexed about how his father hadn’t introduced them to each other. I therefore let him carry His Nibs back to the hotel. I was in a hurry to return as the father was going to show me around his garage where he had quite a collection of old vehicles.
A short while later I was in a van – it might have been Caliburn, I think, with someone else whom I don’t remember. We were in the centre of a big city and pulled up at some traffic lights. Here was a police control and my van was checked over by a plain-clothes police team. They insisted on seeing my papers, which were all in order anyway, but they were taking their time about it. While we were waiting, a big artic pulled up alongside in the outer lane. It was a pale yellow matt colour. The police pounced on that too and asked for the driver’s documents. His cab was quite high off the road and so he simply threw his paperwork out of the vehicle, and also a television and a fruit cake (why a fruit cake I have no idea). The police picked up his documents and walked off round the corner with them to where their vehicle was parked. Meantime, the lorry driver realised that he had forgotten a paper so I said that I would take it. I really had to climb up high to reach it, and the lorry driver started to talk to me in Spanish, only a bit of which I could understand. When I descended from the lorry I had a quick look at the number plates, expecting to see Spanish plates, but in fact they were from Tennessee. I was surprised to see a lorry from Tennessee here in Europe but at least it would explain the Spanish (I was confusing Tennessee with Texas, I reckon). I took the paper – it was a flimsy yellow paper, written on one side with punch holes in various places – round to the policeman in charge. He asked “why do I need to see this,” to which I replied that I had no idea, but the lorry driver clearly thinks that it’s important. Anyway, we waited. And waited. And waited. For hours, I reckoned. And then I went round to see what he was up to, this policeman, and there he was, having a little street party and dancing with a couple of kids. I filmed it with my mobile phone and sent the images off to the local radio station. After all, there we were, this lorry and my van, blocking the street, the lorry driver had run out of hours too so he couldn’t move his lorry now anyway. The radio station sent a car and a camera around to film it for themselves. It didn’t half cause a stir.

I made myself another pizza tonight. The pizza base was one of these big square ones that I had bought by mistake so there’s plenty left for lunch tomorrow. Now I’m going to sit quietly and watch a football match, then I’ll be off for yet another early night – and hopefully finish watching my Flash Gordon film.